- Eurozone investor confidence improves
- Eurozone PMI expands in line
- UK services PMI falls
- Yellen to be confirmed as Fed Chair
FTSE 100: 0.02%
CAC 40: 0.14%
FTSE MIB: 0.79%
IBEX 35: 0.99%
Stoxx 600: 0.02%
European stocks edged higher after better-than-expected Eurozone data and before the release of US reports ahead of this month's Federal Reserve meeting.
Eurozone investor confidence improved more than forecast in January, according to Sentix data. The sentiment index jumped to 11 from 8 in December, beating the 9.5 forecast.
The Eurozone purchasing managers' index (PMI) Composite, which gauges both services and manufacturing activity, came in at 52.1 in December. It was unchanged from the previous month's reading and was line with economists' expectations. A reading above 50 signals expansion.
In the UK, the services PMI fell to 58.8 in December from 60 in November. Economists had expected a reading of 60.3. However, it was still above the 50 level that indicates growth.
In China, HSBC services PMI for December dropped to 50.9 from 52.5 in November, which could fuel fears of a slowdown in the world's second largest economy.
This afternoon German inflation data will be unveiled with economists anticipating the consumer price index to rise by 1.4% in December from 1.3% in the prior month.
Also in Germany, the PMI services fell to 53.5 in December from 54 in November, missing expectations for an unchanged reading.
Janet Yellen to be confirmed as Fed Chair
The US Senate is expected to confirm Janet Yellen as the next Chairman of the Federal Reserve, succeeding Ben Bernanke who steps down at the end of the month.
"She is exceptionally qualified for the job in terms of experience at the Fed, her good forecasting record, and sound judgment on the economy and asset bubbles," according to Bill Hubard, Chief Economist at Markets.com.
This month, at its next policy meeting, the Fed will announce whether it plans to further reduce monetary stimulus.
Last month the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said it would start reducing monthly bond purchases to $75bn from $85bn.
Acting as a backdrop to gauge the health of the world's biggest economy, the Institute for Supply Management will report its US non-manufacturing PMI for December which is estimated to have jumped to 54.5 from 53.9 in November.
Separately, data may show factory orders in the US rose 1.7% in November compared to a 0.9% fall in October, according to the consensus forecast.
EU to ease financial reforms
Brussels is set to ease flagship financial reforms so that big European banks are not automatically forced to split their lending operations from risky trading, according to a draft European Commission plan obtained by the Financial Times.
Thus, such a divorce between both kinds of activities would no longer be mandatory and would be less costly and restrictive than first envisaged.
As a group banks were leading gains today on the DJ Stoxx 600.
RSA, Remy Cointreau
RSA Insurance Group advanced after a report said the insurer's Irish unit won't require further capital injections.
Remy Cointreau retreated as Natixis lowered its rating on the producer of Remy Martin cognac to 'neutral' from 'buy' after Frederic Pflanz resigned as Chief Executive Officer last week.
Sanofi slumped after JPMorgan Chase & Co. lowered its recommendation on the drugmaker to 'neutral' from 'overweight', citing a possible weak earnings outlook in 2014.
Precious metal miners Randgold Resources and Fresnillo were trading firmly lower this morning as gold and silver prices weakened.
Centamin advanced after its full-year production exceeded its forecast.
The euro rose 0.12% to $1.3605.
Brent crude futures jumped $0.817 t0 107.770 per barrel, according to the ICE, amidst continuing media coverage of recently increased tensions in the Middle East, and Iraq in particular.